Full welfare reform may finally arrive

By Union-Tribune Editorial Staff
Jan. 14, 2012

Sixteen years ago, President Bill Clinton and Congress worked together to pass a sweeping welfare reform law that created incentives for millions of people to get their lives together and seek employment or start careers. The number of people on welfare dropped by 60 percent by 2000 to the lowest point since before President Lyndon Johnson launched the war on poverty in the mid-1960s.

But in California, opposition to the law was entrenched, and only a limited, loophole-ridden version of welfare reform was implemented. Now Gov. Jerry Brown wants to finally honor the spirit of the 1996 law by cutting from 48 months to 24 months the time an unemployed individual can receive state aid and reducing the exemptions that allow some to not seek work.

This will face opposition in the Legislature as inhumane and unfair. It’s also a different economic climate than seen in the mid- and late 1990s. Nevertheless, the fact is incentives have the power to change people’s lives for the better. Pushing people to find work and to seek training to make themselves more employable is a good thing. That Brown is backing such policies only because it will save the state $1 billion doesn’t undercut the fact that they’ve worked very well elsewhere in the United States.

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